Where You Live May Boost Your Sense of Well-Being

Mental health improved when families moved from very poor neighborhoods, study found

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Robert Sampson, a professor in the department of sociology at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, said: "Poverty is a very sticky problem. There's a persistent hierarchy of neighborhoods and they're often separated by race and income. In really poor neighborhoods, vast opportunities are closed off and unattainable.

"Yet, the vouchers did help," added Sampson, author of an accompanying editorial in the journal. Although they didn't necessarily improve economic outcomes, they did improve well-being and physical health, he said.

Both experts pointed out that income segregation in neighborhoods has become an increasing problem. They feel that moving significant numbers of people out of those neighborhoods probably wouldn't be feasible or effective.

"One of the key goals is to try to identify the characteristics that could improve people's well-being without moving them. If you look at the baseline surveys, three quarters said that crime was why they wanted to move. They wanted to get away from gangs and drugs," Ludwig said. "So, moving people into safer neighborhoods, or increasing the safety in the neighborhoods where they live, is at least one of the things that's important for happiness and well-being."

More information

Read more about poverty and mental health from the American Psychological Association.

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